At the start of March I set myself a seemingly simple goal: to make things. While a lot of my time gets poured into writing, editing, coaching others in their creative projects, creating workshops, all of these things are not exactly tangible. Words on a page can feel too easily erased, an entire novel is just a file on a computer unless you print it out. I wanted to create things that I could hold in my hands, and March, being just at the turn of spring, felt like a perfect time to do this.
I also wanted to return to things I used to enjoy doing. Most of my creative memories come from my childhood. I remember hours spent making Fimo creations, practising how to do dark and light shading with a pencil, painting everything from pottery to glass, and a lot of time spent bashing at the old piano that sat in the living room.
There’s something special about having things in the house that I’ve decorated
Once you become a ‘grownup’, a lot of things that aren’t considered ‘useful’ get trimmed away. Leisure time becomes much smaller, and more essential things like exercise take precedence if there is a small moment to spare. The evenings, often a time of tiredness, end up leaking away into staring at TV screens, turning pages of books or phone flicking on the sofa until it’s time to go to bed. I wanted to use any available moment to make, and see what that felt like.
For starters, I went back to music. I resurrected my limited knowledge of GarageBand, pulled out my ukulele (a lockdown purchase I have spent very little time using) and started recording. It was incredibly fun. While studying music often felt very serious, this was purely an opportunity to create a version of songs I really liked and to have a laugh with it. I didn’t care about the quality, the brilliance of my playing, anything like that. In fact, I recorded all of them on an old pair of iPhone earphones with a built-in microphone, so the quality isn’t great.
This touch of colour makes my ‘creative corner’ all the more inspiring
But oh, it was fun. I started with Sunshine On Leith by the Proclaimers, simply because I think it’s a beautiful song and they create the most gorgeous harmonies. With a bit of tweaking and several retakes, I was able to listen to myself singing in three-part harmony. Which was pretty bloody cool. I found that I wanted my daughter to go to bed so I could give it a little tweak, have a go at figuring out the harmony to the next bit, and found myself sleeping far easier than if I’d stared at the TV. I also had a go at When Your Mind’s Made Up from Once (so annoying, who writes music in 5/4?) and the most fun was Paperback Writer by The Beatles, in which I imitated a bass guitar. To be able to listen back to them is immensely satisfying, and I was surprised how relaxing and fun it was.
The other ‘making’ projects were more physical. I borrowed a wood burner from my in-laws to make my bedside lamps look a bit more interesting. I bought some glass paints to add some colour to a couple of pots that now sit in my little ‘artist’s space’ near my desk. A friend helped me to learn how to crochet, while also staying up until midnight to finish a glow-in-the-dark puzzle with two dolphins on (so many similar blue pieces!).
Such a satisfying feeling when the final piece goes in!
All of these are things I can look at, hold, and touch. In some cases I’ve created something from nothing, in others I’ve added to what was already there. I knew it would give me a feeling of accomplishment when they were done, but I wasn’t expecting the way it would affect me while I was doing them. In any kind of making, total absorption is necessary. While tangling wool around my fingers, burning marks into wood or swirling paint onto glass, my mind is entirely occupied by the thing my hands are shaping. It was like meditation, almost like a kind of prayer.
Running used to be the way I escaped from the world, so it was wonderful to find that I could have that same level of focus while doing other things. It occurs to me that I need all of these things in my life. Creating things, in many forms, is not an idle hobby. It’s something that focuses and frees my mind, gives me a sense of pleasure and achievement, and leads to a level of relaxation I just don’t experience through gazing at screens.
Nothing much yet, but very pleased to have learnt a new skill!
While I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up this level of output every month, what I do hope is that I will always have some sort of creative project ticking over alongside my writing. I’ve found little sparks of inspiration pinging out while my hands are absorbed, so I’m sure the two complement each other.
I’ve also found that my level of anxiety has receded. There’s something about creating something for the sake of it, for fun, that lowers the stakes of my other making. I’d like to keep Making March in the calendar for next year, and carry forward the lessons it’s taught me throughout the year.
Whatever your talents, whatever your inclinations, there will always be something you can create. A dance, a meal, a cake, a great outfit, all of these things involve altering the world through the actions of your hands. Whatever it is, I hope you find your own inspiration and creativity in your fingers, and that it brings you joy.
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